UKRAINIAN IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA By Alexey Batourin, The Herald Times November 21, 2004 The American movie industry cultivates the image of macho guys who do nothing but fight, swear, and break laws. As soon as I departed my flight at the airport, I realized that there is nothing in common between the people of America and the Hollywood characters. On the drive to my host city, two vehicles, a shuttle bus and a car collided before my eyes. The drives were civil to each other; they talked peaceably and went their separate ways. In a similar situation, Ukrainian drivers would bestow a continuous current of strong expletives on each other. Americans turned out to be very well-wishing, polite and hospitable people. Never could I have suspected that a passerby who is a total stranger would stop for a brief chit-chat with me and say in parting, Have a good day! Wherever I would find myself, I was invariably greeted and apologized tofor something or other. Thus the people of my host city all but dispelled the Hollywood-induced myth of foul-mouthed Americans in a matter of hours. I was greatly surprised by peoples unwillingness to walk anywhere. I told one of my new acquaintances about how we were taken to a nearby café by car. The little restaurant was just a couple of yards away or so, and it seemed to me that we spent more time and effort getting in and out of the car. We would probably have been prompter walking on foot. To that my friend noted with laughter that Americans are very lazy. I believe he was off on that one; everyone we saw worked a lot and for all we could see, quite efficiently. The multitude of cars in the city streets was further proof that people treat others with respect in America. It is quite in the order of things to give a pedestrian or another car the right of passage. Most Ukrainian drivers worry only about themselves and are forever ready to cut a car in the next lane at a crossing. Here I have never seen any violations of traffic rules. I was quite impressed by the modesty of most Americans. Rich people tend not to make too much of their affluence and try not to let it jump in your face. A millionaire may dress like a student and drive a battered car. In our country, an affluent person is immediately conspicuous. The new Russian wave has spawned a set of standard symbols: a rich individual is a habitué of trendy places of fine dining; a chic auto waits for him at the entrance. The only thing I did not particularly care for in the United States was the food. We visited a host of various restaurants with our friends; they make some tasty stuff at some of them, yet en masse, the foodstuffs are somehow lacking in character and zing. They are bland, so I proudly claim here that Ukrainian food is tastier. For instance, ham in Ukraine has much more flavor; so does milk. Milk is not milk here; it is plastic. True, I have done justice to the culinary gifts of our friends. Each and every one of them did their best to regale us with one tasty treat or anotherand scored a great success doing so. I would especially like to state my impressions of my host city. The city seems provincial; it may be due to the status of a university center it is home to. I was amazed to see how many cultural events take place in such a small city, and it is particularly noteworthy that concert programs target audiences with very dissimilar musical tastes. Citizens of the community do their best to make students feel comfortable, and that is particularly attractive for me since I was a student not too long ago andalas!had to deal with a very different attitude. Leaving for home, I will bear in mind from now on that there emerged yet another place in the world that I will miss forthwith--my host city.